France: Suspected gunman named, had long police record
By LORI HINNANT, SYLVIE CORBET and JOHN LEICESTER
Wednesday, December 12
STRASBOURG, France (AP) — A massive manhunt involving hundreds of police and soldiers was underway Wednesday for a suspected extremist who yelled “God is great!” in Arabic during a shooting spree around one of Europe’s most famous Christmas markets. The assault in the eastern French city of Strasbourg killed two, left one person brain dead and injured 12 others, authorities said.
Police union officials identified the suspected assailant as Frenchman Cherif Chekatt, a 29-year-old with a thick police record for crimes including armed robbery and monitored as a suspected religious radical by the French intelligence services. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss details of the large and ongoing investigation into the attack that set France on edge anew.
The suspect’s parents and two brothers, also known for radicalism, have been detained, according to a judicial official.
Reflecting Strasbourg’s international nature, the dead included a Thai tourist, and an Italian was reportedly among the wounded. The U.S. government, among others, warned citizens in the area to be vigilant. The city is home to the European Parliament and considers itself a capital of Europe — and promotes itself as the “capital of Christmas.”
Some 720 members of the security forces were hunting for the suspected gunman Wednesday. Prosecutor Remy Heitz said the suspect was shot in the arm during an exchange of fire with French soldiers during his rampage in the city center on Tuesday. He then took a taxi to another part of the city, boasting of the attack to the driver. There, he exchanged more gunfire with police and disappeared.
Heitz said the man attacked his victims with a handgun and a knife. Previously, French authorities had said the assailant killed three people, but Heitz said two people were confirmed dead while the third was brain dead. A further 12 people were injured, six of them gravely.
Witnesses described shots and screams after the gunman opened fire around the Christmas market Tuesday evening. They also reported that the assailant yelled “God is great!” in Arabic during the attack, the prosecutor added. For several hours swaths of the city were under lockdown.
Senior Interior Ministry official Laurent Nunez said the suspect had been radicalized in prison and had been monitored by French intelligence services since his release in late 2015, because of his suspected religious extremism.
Nunez said on France-Inter radio that police sought to arrest the man on Tuesday morning, hours before the shooting, in relation to an attempted murder. He was not at home but five other people were detained, authorities said.
Heitz said police seized a grenade, a rifle and knives during the operation.
The government raised the security alert level and sent police reinforcements to Strasbourg, where hundreds of police and soldiers were involved in the search.
A terrorism investigation was opened, but the motive of the attack is unclear.
At Chekatt’s apartment, in an outer neighborhood of Strasbourg, the lock of the door was broken at his apartment. Police were guarding the building.
A neighbor, who asked not to be named because the gunman was still at large, said he was rarely home. She said she last saw him Monday from her window, which looks out on a common hallway, and he was with another man.
Young men from the apartment block said they knew him as someone who seemed destabilized by his time in prison. “You can just tell,” said one, lightly touching the side of his head. They, too, feared being publicly named because the gunman is still being hunted by police.
The suspected attacker’s more than two dozen convictions also included crimes in Germany and Switzerland, according to court documents seen by The Associated Press.
The German government says it has stepped up controls on the country’s border with France following the attack, but sees no change to the threat level in Germany.
Strasbourg’s Christmas market attracts visitors from around the world. A Thai national, 45-year-old Anupong Suebsamarn, was one of the two killed, according to a Thai Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.
The English-language website of the newspaper Khao Sod said Anupong was the owner of a noodle factory in Chachoengsao province, east of Bangkok, and also sold clothes in the Thai capital’s garment district. It quoted his uncle as saying he and his wife had originally planned to visit Paris, but the “yellow vest” protests there prompted them to change plans and go to Strasbourg instead.
Italian media say Antonio Megalizzi, 28, was among the wounded, and is in critical condition. Italian daily La Repubblica reports that he was in Strasbourg to follow the European Parliamentary session.
The attack is a new blow to France, which saw a wave of Islamic extremist killings in 2015 and 2016. It came amid a month of protests against President Emmanuel Macron that have blocked roads around the country, led to rioting in the capital and put heavy strain on police.
While authorities urged people in the area to stay inside after Tuesday’s attack, Strasbourg Mayor Roland Ries told BFM television Wednesday that “life must go on” so that the city doesn’t cede to a “terrorist who is trying to disrupt our way of life.”
Many of Europe’s deadliest terror attacks in recent years have taken place in France. In response to Tuesday’s shooting, the government decided to take the country’s attack risk up a level on the official threat index.
Leicester and Corbet reported from Paris. Angela Charlton in Paris, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Kaweewit Kaewjinda in Bangkok and Colleen Barry in Milan also contributed to this report.
By Andrew Moss
When Jose Antonio Vargas was sixteen years old, he discovered that his green card was a fake. Unbeknownst to the grandparents with whom he was living in Mountain View, California, the young Filipino immigrant took himself to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a driver’s license, only to be told by the clerk that his card was fraudulent: “This is fake. Don’t come back here again.”
Vargas, who had been sent to the U.S. by his mother at the age of 12 (with the misplaced hope that she’d be able to follow him) was stunned and disoriented. He soon learned that the “uncle” who accompanied him on the flight from Manila was a smuggler hired by his grandfather, and he found himself as a teenager questioning all his relationships and his capacity for trust. Yet he persevered as one of the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., succeeding in school and in college, and ultimately finding his way as a journalist, all the while engaging in what he called the common moves of undocumented people: “lying, passing, and hiding.”
Recently Vargas came out with a new book, Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen, and in it he bears witness to the “homelessness” that he and others experience: not a traditional kind of homelessness, “but the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like me find ourselves in.” Vargas argues that if the politics of immigration are ever to change, the “culture in which immigrants are seen” has to change, and to this end he has dedicated his writing, his documentary-making, and his public appearances to storytelling that can help change the image of immigrants and the understanding of immigration in American life.
Vargas writes compellingly, not from a place of abstract ideals but from deeply felt personal experience. When, as a young man, he was awarded an internship at the Washington Post, he felt an old anxiety creep up: “I always thought I was taking someone else’s spot. I had internalized this anxiety from years of hearing the they’re-taking-our-jobs narrative about ‘illegals’.” Years later, after finding out that he and colleagues from the Post had been awarded a 2008 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shootings, he found it unbearable to continue hiding his undocumented status, and eventually he came out in 2011 in a confessional essay he wrote for the New York Times Magazine: “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant.” Coming out presented Vargas with new opportunities and challenges, and, overcoming some initial reluctance, he agreed to accept an increasingly public role.
Vargas’s stories from this phase of his life highlight the depersonalizing ways in which undocumented people are often seen and represented. He tells of appearing on a Fox News show with Megyn Kelly, not knowing in advance that another guest would be interviewed along with him: a woman named Laura Wilkerson, whose son Josh had been killed by an undocumented immigrant. In describing the interview later, Vargas writes compassionately about Wilkerson, but he doesn’t withhold comment about the way she sought to pigeonhole him. She said, “I think if you’re not a United States citizen, you don’t have a seat at the table regardless, especially where you’re making laws.” Vargas comments, “But I was seated next to her. We were sharing a table.”
In writing Dear America, Vargas composed his own story about what it means to be undocumented. Drawing on the immediacy of personal experience, he was able to write with authority about larger issues at stake, including America’s responsibility for helping create many of the political and economic circumstances that continue to drive so many migrants to our borders.
But it’s the focus on language itself that I believe constitutes one of Vargas’ most significant contributions. At a time when dehumanizing speech and writing help propel much of the violence behind our current immigration policies, whether those policies result in the caging of children or the teargassing of families, Vargas points to the need for a new language that can help us understand migration and migrants with compassion and discernment.
There are, of course, existing ironies: the way, for example, that phrases like “removable alien,” “undocumented person,” and “Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist” all currently apply to Vargas himself. But there’s also a new language in formation, a language symbolized by the seemingly contradictory phrase, “undocumented citizen.” In using that phrase, Vargas takes the idea of citizenship beyond birthright or privilege and associates it with a higher concept of participation. He invites us to recognize the 11 million undocumented citizens among us as people who contribute and participate in countless ways. Vargas is one of these 11 million, telling stories that help change the language, thereby helping change our understandings of ourselves.
Andrew Moss, syndicated by PeaceVoice,is an emeritus professor at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he taught a course, “War and Peace in Literature,” for 10 years.
You make decisions quicker and based on less information than you think
December 10, 2018
Postdoctoral Researcher at Harris Public Policy, University of Chicago
Nadav Klein does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
We live in an age of information. In theory, we can learn everything about anyone or anything at the touch of a button. All this information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.
But the widespread availability of information does not mean that you actually use it even if you have it. In fact, decades of research in psychology and behavioral science find that people readily make data-poor snap judgments in a variety of instances. People form lasting impressions of others in the span of milliseconds, evaluators judge teachers in less than a minute and consumers make shopping decisions based on little deliberation. Even voting decisions can seemingly be predicted from preliminary impressions formed during incredibly brief time periods.
If these findings seem remarkable to you, recent research by my colleague and me suggests that you are not alone. The immediacy of human judgment generally surprises people. Individuals fail to anticipate how little information they and others use when making decisions.
And this disconnect can have implications in daily life: After all, recognizing how much – or little – information people actually use to make judgments and decisions could influence how much you try to share with others. A job candidate should have a sense of how much of her resume prospective employers will actually read so she can prioritize her efforts accordingly.
And it would help when you’re deciding how much information to acquire when making your own decisions. How long should you try out a subscription service before deciding whether you like it enough to pay? How much time should you date a love interest before deciding to tie the knot?
Comparing predictions and reality
In our research, my co-author Ed O’Brien and I tested whether people can correctly anticipate how much information they and others use when making varied judgments. We consistently found that people were surprised by how quickly they make judgments and how little information they use doing so.
In one study, we asked participants to imagine having pleasant or unpleasant interactions with another person. In comparison, we asked another group of participants to predict how many of those interactions they would need to experience to determine someone’s character. We found that people believed they would need many interactions to make this judgment, when in fact the first group needed few.
In another study, we asked MBA students to write applications for hypothetical management positions, and then asked actual HR people to read their materials. Our applicants wrote and shared much more material than the hiring professionals cared to read.
We also asked people who have never been married to predict how long, after meeting their future spouse, it would take them to decide that this person is “the one.” Fully 39 percent of these never-marrieds thought they would need to date this person more than year before they’d feel ready to spend the rest of their lives with him or her. In contrast, married people reported having made this judgment much more quickly, with only 18 percent stating that it took them more than a year to do so.
Similar mispredictions occur when evaluating subscription services based on trial periods, tasting novel beverages, and evaluating streaks of luck, athletic performances and academic grades. In all cases, people believed they would use more information than they actually did.
Misunderstanding this human tendency
There are several reasons why people might have the wrong impression about how quickly they and others make judgments.
One possibility is a belief that the human mind processes information incrementally. A naive perspective might imagine that new information stacks on top of old information until some mental threshold is reached for making a decision. In reality, however, preliminary research suggests that information aggregation is much closer to an exponential function; the first few pieces of information are weighted much more heavily than later information.
Another possibility is that people fail to realize how rich and engrossing each separate piece of information is. In psychology, this is called an empathy gap. Consider the question of how many interactions are necessary for you to decide whether you like and trust someone. It may be tempting to believe you’ll rationally evaluate each interaction as you would a dry statistic. But social encounters are vivid and engaging, and the first experience may simply be so absorbing as to tilt your judgment irrevocably, making future interactions unnecessary.
Recognizing the rush to judgment
It’s not clear that quick decisions are always bad. Sometimes snap judgments are remarkably accurate and they can save time. It would be crippling to comb through all the available information on a topic every time a decision must be made. However, misunderstanding how much information we actually use to make our judgments has important implications beyond making good or bad decisions.
Take the problem of self-fulfilling prophesies. Imagine a situation in which a manager forms a tentative opinion of an employee that then cascades into a series of decisions that affect that employee’s entire career trajectory. A manager who sees an underling make a small misstep in an insignificant project may avoid assigning challenging projects in the future, which in turn would hamstring this employee’s career prospects. If managers are unaware how willing they are to make quick and data-poor initial judgments, they’ll be less likely to nip these self-fulfilling destructive cycles in the bud.
Another example might be the human tendency to rely on stereotypes when judging other people. Although you may believe that you’ll consider all the information available about another person, people in fact are more likely to consider very little information and let stereotypes creep in. It may be a failure to understand how quickly judgments get made that make it so hard to exclude the influence of stereotyping.
Modern technology allows virtually any decision made today to be more informed than the same decision made a few decades ago. But the human reliance on quick judgments may forestall this promise. In the quest for more informed decision-making, researchers will need to explore ways to encourage people to slow down the speed of judgment.
Record count reported for mysterious paralyzing illness
By MIKE STOBBE
AP Medical Writer
Tuesday, December 11
NEW YORK (AP) — This year has seen a record number of cases of a mysterious paralyzing illness in children, U.S. health officials said Monday.
It’s still not clear what’s causing the kids to lose the ability to move their face, neck, back, arms or legs. The symptoms tend to occur about a week after the children had a fever and respiratory illness.
No one has died from the rare disease this year, but it was blamed for one death last year and it may have caused others in the past.
What’s more, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say many children have lasting paralysis. And close to half the kids diagnosed with it this year were admitted to hospital intensive care units and hooked up to machines to help them breathe.
The condition has been likened to polio, a dreaded paralyzing illness that once struck tens of thousands of U.S. children a year. Those outbreaks ended after a polio vaccine became available in the 1950s. Investigators of the current outbreak have ruled out polio, finding no evidence of that virus in recent cases.
The current mystery can be traced to 2012, when three cases of limb weakness were seen in California. The first real wave of confirmed illnesses was seen in 2014, when 120 were reported. Another, larger wave occurred in 2016, when there were 149 confirmed cases. So far this year, there have been 158 confirmed cases.
In 2015 and 2017, the counts were far lower, and it’s not clear why.
The condition is called acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM. Investigators have suspected it is caused by a virus called EV-D68. The 2014 wave coincided with a lot of EV-D68 infections and the virus “remains the leading hypothesis,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, a member of a 16-person AFM Task Force that the CDC established last month to offer advice to disease detectives.
But there is disagreement about how strong a suspect EV-D68 is. Waves of AFM and that virus haven’t coincided in other years, and testing is not finding the virus in every case. CDC officials have been increasingly cautious about saying the virus triggered the illnesses in this outbreak.
Indeed, EV-D68 infections are not new in kids, and many Americans carry antibodies against it.
Why would the virus suddenly be causing these paralyzing illnesses?
“This is a key question that has confounded us,” said the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier, who is overseeing the agency’s outbreak investigation.
Experts also said it’s not clear why cases are surging in two-year cycles.
Another mystery: More than 17 countries have reported scattered AFM cases, but none have seen cyclical surges like the U.S. has.
When there has been a wave in the U.S., cases spiked in September and tailed off significantly by November. Last week, CDC officials said the problem had peaked, but they warned that the number of cases would go up as investigators evaluated — and decided whether to count — illnesses that occurred earlier.
As of Monday, there were 311 illness reports still being evaluated.
This year’s confirmed cases are spread among 36 states. The states with the most are Texas, with 21, and Colorado, 15.
But it’s not clear if the state tallies truly represent where illnesses have been happening. For example, the numbers in Colorado may be high at least partly because it was in the scene of an attention-grabbing 2014 outbreak, and so doctors there may be doing a better job doing things that can lead to a diagnosis.
For an illness to be counted, the diagnosis must include an MRI scan that shows lesions in the part of the spinal cord that controls muscles.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.